GREAT OVERSTRAND BIRDING DESPITE VERY STRONG WINDS
Posted on the 27th September 2018
The high winds this morning put an abrupt end to the planned outing to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve – half of the group phoned to cancel due to the weather and sniffles and we then decided to call the rest off. I was however committed to go as I volunteered beforehand to pick Richard Masson up at a garage where he had his vehicle serviced. And it was his birthday!! I had a cold as well and Elaine suggested that Richard and I bird from the car and not walk around too much.
We started at the Vermont salt pan where the wind was really pumping, making birding very difficult. There were LESSER and GREATER FLAMINGOS on view, together with the usual suspects such as the PIED AVOCET, WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, GREY HERON, BLACKSMITH LAPWING and BLACK-WINGED STILT. We also added species such as the CAPE SHOVELER, CAPE TEAL and THREE-RINGED PLOVER. WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS were flying around all over the place. The reed beds and other habitats around the pan hosted the CAPE BULBUL, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, CAPE WHITE-EYE and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD. There were no BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON on view after we saw 12 on Saturday morning. Amazingly we only logged 24 species at the salt pan compared to the 44 species that we recorded on Saturday morning. High winds are certainly not the bird-watcher’s best friend.
We then took a slow drive through Vermont and added the common doves and sparrows, but nothing out of the ordinary. The Bitou lookout point produced the CAPE SPURFOWL, CAPE WAGTAIL and CAPE WEAVER and along the shoreline WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER, SWIFT TERN and WHIMBREL. The Onrus lagoon lookout point was really windswept and we only added a single YELLOW-BILLED DUCK and were able to add the calls of the CAPE TURTLE-DOVE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU and SOMBRE GREENBUL. The terns are back at Harderbaai in a big way with many COMMON and SWIFT TERNS and only a few SANDWICH TERNS on view. CAPE and CROWNED CORMORANTS looked rather forlorn on the rocks. There was only one LITTLE EGRET around and I only found AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS upon my return home.
The Karwyderskraal road was also very quiet even though we found BLUE CRANES, an AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, YELLOW-BILLED KITES and MALACHITE SUNBIRDS. We also added one lark and two cisticolas, but strangely, not a single stonechat. We decided not to do the Swartrivier road as it would have been too dusty, but spent some time at the old metal bridge. This area produced BAR-THROATED APALIS, SPECKLED MOUSEBIRD, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and both bishops. There were good numbers of WHITE-FACED DUCKS on view, but the highlight certainly was large numbers of ALPINE SWIFTS spinning through the skies – these magnificent large swifts are certainly a joy to watch. Richard then spotted a black bird flying very high up in the sky and there was an AFRICAN DARTER floating the thermals incredibly high up in the sky – a first for us both.
A bizarre sighting on our way back was a GIANT KINGFISHER flying over the R43 not close to any water that we could figure out. We quickly popped into the Hawston sewage works that now has a huge security gate – apparently the new contractors are not very birder friendly. We did however have good views of LITTLE GREBES and HOTTENTOT and REDBILLED TEALS in the river below the road. We also heard the calls of LITTLE SWIFTS and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLERS. On my way back home there was a BURCHELL’S COUCAL sitting in a tree along Main Road in Onrus – my first ever sighting of this species in the suburb proper.
Despite the terrible conditions we were able to log 83 species in a matter of just over three hours. The banter and chats were however extremely enjoyable and we sorted out several issues regarding future club talks and weekend outings – watch this space. Happy birthday Richard: have a good one.
(I did not even try to take photographs in these conditions and the images used here were taken previously. We might add some of Richard’s images taken today at some point).
The terns are back at the Harderbaai viewpoint in Onrus